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That is to say, how long before you notice the effects, feel more alert, and so on.

I'm assuming it's different for each person, but there must be a range. Also, does it differ for different types of coffee - beans, and styles - eg espresso vs latte?

(This being relevant to productivity so that I can time coffee intake before meetings)

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Please give people credit for their effort to help you and accept answers on your previous questions. You haven't accepted a single answer! – THelper May 30 '12 at 8:04
Fair point, on SE sites I tend to go through phases and go through in one foul swoop accepting answers every so often. Two of them I'm still trying out the suggestions tho, so can't accept all of them! – Mark Mayo May 30 '12 at 15:47
I'm not convinced you mean "foul" swoop. – Dave Newton Jun 21 '12 at 12:37
Wow, I learn something every day: Guess nobody says "fell swoop" any more :( – Mark Mayo Jun 21 '12 at 16:14
up vote 11 down vote accepted

A quick research (1, 2) showed me that the concentration of caffeine seems to peak about 30-60mins after ingestion. However, in my personal experience I have a feeling of alertness already when I drink my cup of coffee: This is most likely just a placebo effect, but I don't care as long as it works.

On different styles: A latte is usually a shot of espresso + milk, so they have an equal amount of caffeine. Drip coffee contains more caffeine per serving, as you can see on this table.

To answer your question: If you want to use coffee as a stimulant, you might want to limit your daily intake or you will grow a tolerance and will need caffeine to function. This way you can get yourself a cup about half an hour before your meeting and enjoy the effect.

P.S.: Don't try to fix any lack of sleep with coffee: in the long run it does not work. Being tired is a real productivity killer.

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For sure re the tolerance. I've been at this new role for 3 weeks now, and today's the first day I've touched coffee. Lack of sleep last night, and I had what I knew would be a long meeting coming up - so it occurred to me timing of my intake might be critical to staying compos mentis for its duration ;) – Mark Mayo May 29 '12 at 23:30
I think "Mind Performance Hacks" mentions that this placebo effect can even be observed /before/ actual ingestion. It's about the ceremony. – xmjx May 30 '12 at 6:13
A tip from a former barista: larger espresso drinks are often 2+ shots of espresso, so if limiting/tracking/quantifying the caffeine intake is important, be sure to double check what's going in the drink. – Belisama May 30 '12 at 10:09
Good answer, but agree with @xmjx as well. Some people drink coffee when they start work. After about 6-30 repetitions of this pattern, the brain associates coffee/caffiene with work, and instantly runs the mental routine needed to shut off other distractions and prep the brain for doing work. – Muz Apr 21 '13 at 3:01

The issue is that it never becomes useful in its true meaning. Yes, it stimulates you for a period of time, then you body needs to pay for it. Clearly, if you do it too much, you over stress yourself more and more. Then you get issue that you cannot relax and you start taking something to relax. Vicious cycle. You damage your biological cycles at the end of the day.

If you are speaking on getting more energy I suggest you look at advices in a book "The power of full engagement". Quite light book with interesting insights on how to improve energy level and get to the right balance. I will not rewrite it here, the main idea is that we need to take care of ourselves by having right cycles of stress and relax. Quite simple and powerful methods.

I had quite serious issue when I was pushing myself too hard (with stimuli of coffee as well, of course). Too much and long hours of work with a few hours of sleep. Where I ended - I started having serious issues with concentration, I could not keep attention for long on one item. Yet more badly, short term memory had worsen significantly, and I could not keep things in mind. It felt like you cannot recall what you were thinking of or focusing on few mins ago. Awful feeling. I read later on that that become a syndrome of many in the modern life due to overflow of data and over stress. Luckily, it was fixable.

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I find that a good strong espresso will give me a buzz within a few minutes. However each time I have an espresso the following buzz is reduced. If I don't have any coffee for a week or so and then have my espresso then I'll get that hit again.

Typically I have 1 cup in the morning and then maybe another just before I go back to work. There was a time when I was drinking a cup of coffee each hour and that was not good, when I stopped I had some really nasty headache / withdrawls.

After my son was born I started having strong coffee at work, 2 or 3 scoops of instant + a few spoons of sugar and only about 1/2 fill it with water. Again that would give me quite a nice buzz but I was adding scoops to keep getting that hit.

So if you want to use the coffee to perk you up before a meeting the best advice is to not overdo it during the week, drink lots of water to flush your system out and learn what kind of 'dose' you need because you don't want to go 'cold turkey' for a month before an interview, then just before going in drink 3 double espressos because you'll probably start sweating and hyperventilating. Just treat it as you would any other drug and don't get to the point where you need it to function.

As to how you take it... most coffees from your favourite coffee shop are espresso based, so a latte is an espresso + milk, an americano is an espresso + water... there's no real difference between one of those and a pure espresso, except that you're diluting the espresso if you add milk / water. Whatever you prefer is best though.

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Chiming in from Finland, where having 6-8 cups of strong coffee a day is the norm, I will add that once you are beyond a certain point in coffee addiction, there will be no more "buzz" from drinking coffee. It is more regarded as being so, that you will no longer function normally before the morning joe. Having coffee during the day is merely a habit, without the aim of boosting your attention or brain activity. You probably won't even notice any effects, compared to when you drank coffee in moderation.

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In reference to this comment:

"However, in my personal experience I have a feeling of alertness already when I drink my cup of coffee: This is most likely just a placebo effect, but I don't care as long as it works."

The effects of coffee may peak after 30 to 60 minutes. However, (brewed/orally consumed) coffee is a complex, compound stimulus comprised of a distinctive (and delicious!) smell, taste, temperature and usually presented in particular cups (porcelain, heavy glass) and contexts (times, coffee shops).

These conditions are not "the placebo effect" in which an inert substance is said to exert some effect despite the lack of an active ingredient (usually a term used in group studies btw to account for non-significant variability).

Caffeine is a very powerful active ingredient.

What is occurring here is delay conditioning, first documented by Ivan Pavlov (aka "Pavlovian conditioning").

The "delay" pairing of a neutral stimulus (the most salient or powerful being the smell and taste) of coffee with an unconditioned stimulus (caffeine) over several trials tends to cause weak conditioned responses to those stimuli (which are now said to be conditioned stimuli (CS), and the weaker responses are now conditioned responses (CR)).

The initial reflex would be a (caffeine)US-> (activation)UR relationship which becomes a CS-> CR.

So the apparent effectiveness of a cup of coffee "almost immediately" (within a few minutes) can be accounted for as a conditioned reaction to the delay conditioning of repeated coffee consumption by the conditioned stimuli of the smell and taste of coffee (and to a lesser extent the additional compound stimuli of place, cup, time of day which are described as V(sum) in the Rescorla-Wagner formula).

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